Ever since the inception of Amazon’s facial recognition system, Rekognition, concerns and criticism from federal parastatals have surpassed praises and commendation.
Amazon released a blog post stating a halt in activities concerning facial recognition. The blog post was vague; as there was no mention of a reason for the suspension or if it would apply to the federal government. There was also no indication of what would follow the one-year break. ACLU tagged Rekognition as a “threat to civil rights and liberties”. While acknowledging the company’s move, it has urged other firms to step up.
The move comes merely two days after IBM explained that it would be exiting the facial recognition market.
IBM’s Chief Executive, Arvind Krishna cited a ‘pursuit of justice and racial equity’ in light of the recent protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis last month.
On whether the move applies to the federal government, Amazon’s spokesperson, Kristin Brown, gave no comments.
Amazon doesn’t have a particular clientele in mind; it has pitched Rekognition to several federal agencies like Customs Enforcement and Immigrations.
Amazon’s cloud chief Andy Jassy said in an interview, “the company would provide Rekognition to any government department.”
A plethora of companies are providing the police with facial recognition platform; however Amazon is by far the largest company to do so.
About a year ago, investors presented a proposal that would have prevented Amazon from selling it’s recognition software to the government. It was averted when the company crushed the vote with a wide margin.
Issues arose during the tryouts of the facial security system. In 2018, in Massachuttes. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) realized that the facial recognition of twenty-eight congress members was false, with mugshots matching those from a criminal database.
Amazon claimed that the results were the result of lowered facial recognition system’s confidence threshold. ACLU found out that the facial recognition system had also repeated the same thing by mismatching twenty-seven New England professional athletes with a mugshot database. ACLU discovered that both tests had wrongly mismatched Black people.